Fans inside Notre Dame Stadium who were calling for defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's job on Saturday got their wish one day later, as Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly fired the beleaguered defensive coordinator Sunday and promoted defensive analyst Greg Hudson to the post.
Saying that Hudson and every other staff member was on a public interview for the rest of the season, Kelly has turned to a fresh set of eyes in hopes of fixing a defense that has allowed 149 points through a 1-3 start, the most points the program has ever given up in its first four games.
"What I was looking for in this particular instance -- each situation you evaluate it at face value -- and what I was looking for, I thought Greg was the perfect fit to bring that energy level up to where I want to see it," Kelly said during a conference call, shortly after the school announced the change. "Guys play hard, but we lack some of the energy and enthusiasm and the fun, quite frankly, that you need to have when you're playing on defense."
Notre Dame is 1-5 in its last six games dating back to last season, with its only win coming in Week 2 over Nevada. The Irish have allowed 206 points in those five losses.
Notre Dame currently ranks 103rd nationally in total defense, 101st in scoring defense, 104th in yards per play, 96th in rushing defense and 87th in passing defense.
Hudson had joined the Irish defensive staff in June and has coordinator experience at Purdue, East Carolina and Minnesota, in addition to serving as assistant head coach and linebackers coach at Florida State.
"Obviously, this is a difficult day for our coaching staff, but I'm excited and honored about the opportunity that Coach Kelly has afforded me," Hudson said in a release earlier Sunday. "We've got to improve on defense, without a doubt, and I'm confident that we will. We have great student-athletes and a tremendous defensive coaching staff. I can't wait to get started with our group."
Kelly had staunchly defended VanGorder at every turn this season, even saying after Saturday's 38-35 loss to Duke that all 22 starting players' jobs were up for grabs but that he was pleased with the coaching staff. He explained the change in public stance Sunday by saying that news conferences are not the appropriate time or place to evaluate his staff, an evaluation that he said took place Saturday night after the loss.
"That's not the appropriate time to get into talking about your coaches and where do you feel they fit on that continuum of how well they're doing," Kelly said. "I'm going to defend them in those public settings. As I got a chance to further evaluate our football team and our current situation I felt that it was in our best interest to make the move that I did."
Kelly reiterated Sunday that the defensive vision and personnel will likely be tweaked in the coming weeks.
"You know, I'll spend a lot more time with the defense obviously," he said. "But you know, terminology will stay effectively the same. We're not going to go and pull the rug underneath the kids at this point in the season.
"But you'll see some certain tweaks that I feel like are necessary and some things that I know that as a group, that we will collectively come to an agreement in our best interests."
He added that his role will be more as a supervisor to help the transition following VanGorder's dismissal.
Kelly said he did not consider a staff change in the offseason after Notre Dame lost its final two games in which it surrendered a combined 82 points, but he said he did evaluate everything internally following this season's 50-47 double-overtime loss at Texas in the opener.
Tax records released to ESPN.com this past spring showed that VanGorder had been among the school's highest-paid employees in 2014, making $1,106,156 in his first year. Multiple sources told ESPN.com that VanGorder had signed a three-year deal when he joined Notre Dame. By comparison, previous Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, now the third-year head coach at UConn, had made $672,824 in his final season with the school, according to tax records obtained by ESPN.com.
VanGorder's son, Montgomery, is a redshirt sophomore quarterback with the Irish, and Kelly said he addressed the coordinator's dismissal with the signal-caller immediately.
Asked if an in-season turnaround now must be coach-led or player-led, Kelly said: "It starts with the coaches, it's got to be coach-led, and they've got to start the fire. Then those players that have that intrinsic motivation, that fire within, they will come along with us. Those that don't, we're going to leave them along the side. But this is going to start with the coaches."